by Vicki Stout

Arts are the core of a lasting civilization. Look at the Pyramids, for example, or the arts of the Roman Empire. It’s how societies develop. We’re seeing a renaissance for the arts, for creativity inspiring human and economic development, and Nashville is a leader in this.”

True to her word, Connie Valentine, now in her fourth year as President and CEO of the burgeoning Arts & Business
Council, is not just leading, but leading with creativity. Valentine is forging meaningful partnerships between the arts and business communities.

Take, for example, the council’s Corporate Band Challenge. Valentine’s brainchild, the concept, in a nutshell, is to offer corporations, nonprofits—even government entities—the opportunity to create a band within their own ranks and compete against each other. While in Music City the concept may not seem such a stretch, its unique nature has even become a model for other cities.

Valentine took her idea to Ron Samuels, President, Chief Executive Officer, and Chairman of the Board of Directors for Avenue Bank. “Count us in,” he said.  “We’re going to rock the house.”

Valentine says these bands that are formed connect employees, from the security guard to the CEO. “It bonds people from all walks of life in ways they never would in any other way. It’s team building at its best. It’s infusing creativity into a workplace, be it the financial sector or the nonprofit world.

“It’s not just the big companies who have participated, and each band is incredibly good. Many of the members joke they may give up their day jobs and go on the road,” Valentine shared.

The competition is at the Wildhorse Saloon. So not only are bands and bonds formed, but they have the thrill of performing for live audiences. The winning band even gets a slot at the CMA Music Festival.

“We chose the Wildhorse as a unique blending of business, music, and the arts. The house sells out at just under five hundred every year. The competition is serious—and spirited,” she said.

The Wildhorse is also the setting for the council’s annual Bowtie Awards luncheon and ceremonies which recognize outstanding business support for the arts. Awards are presented in the areas of Art Education, Arts Impact, Entrepreneurial Support, and Work Environment. And this is anything but some dry awards program. It’s an energetic showcase of Nashville’s performing arts—and an encore performance by the winner from the previous year’s Corporate Band Challenge.

“There are no other awards like this, nor awards presentations like this. We sell the house out every year. At the event are CEOs, clients, and employees. A highlight is the presentation of the Martha Rivers Ingram Visionary Award, which recognizes an individual who has made a significant impact on the arts as a current or former business leader. Walter Knestrick is the very deserving recipient for 2012,” she said.

Yet another of the council’s outreaches is via its Volunteer Lawyers & Professionals for the Arts (VLPA) program, which provides services to artists in every discipline as well as emerging nonprofit arts organizations located in the greater Nashville area. The organization was founded by Casey Summar and Bo Spessard as the Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts. They merged with the Arts & Business Council in 2009.

To date, over two hundred generous volunteer lawyers and business professionals have tallied up $1,000,000 in pro bono services to more than one thousand low-income artists of all disciplines and three hundred emerging nonprofit arts organizations.

The council recently staged its fourth annual Arts Immersion event, which celebrates the convergence of Nashville arts and business, showcasing artistic talent and honoring the volunteer professionals who so generously support it. It is presented in partnership with the Nashville Bar Association Young Lawyers Division.

The Arts and Business Council is dedicated to building a stronger relationship between the arts and the business community. Each group has something special to offer the other. Our organization hopes to help each realize this potential.

— Martha Ingram

The council was selected by nationally recognized Creative Capital Professional Development Program to present a Core Weekend Workshop, described as a “crash course in self-encouragement, strategic planning, fundraising, and promotion.” Participants say the workshop “changed their lives,” according to Valentine, who is indeed changing the lives of many through the Arts & Business Council.

For more information on the Arts & Business Council, visit

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